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Manjar or dulce de leche

Recipe for homemade manjar or dulce de leche, a traditional Latin dessert made by caramelizing milk and sugar.

Dulce de leche recipe

En Español

Dulce de leche is one of the most popular desserts in Latin America. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Mexico, where it’s known as cajeta and made with goat milk; in Colombia, where it’s called arequipe; or all the way south in Argentina, everyone (I hope) loves dulce de leche.

Dulce de leche

In Ecuador, dulce de leche is also known as manjar de leche or manjar blanco, the word manjar translates as a special treat or delicacy. Manjar is usually made with raw milk and panela or piloncillo; this gives it a strong flavor, which I really didn’t like when I was a kid. During our last visit to France, while spending some time in the mountains – where many dairy products are made, mainly using fresh raw milk – I tried a locally made confiture de lait and found the taste to be very similar to the Ecuadorian manjar.

Dulce de leche or manjar de leche
Dulce de leche recipe

Manjar or dulce de leche – traditional stovetop preparation

Recipe for homemade manjar or dulce de leche, a traditional Latin dessert made by caramelizing milk and sugar.
4.88 from 139 votes
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Course: Sweets
Cuisine: Argentina, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Latin American, Peruvian, Venezuelan
Keyword: Caramel, Dulce de leche, From scratch, Manjar
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours
Servings: 2 cups


  • 8 cups of whole milk
  • 2 to 2 ½ cups sugar or panela/piloncillo raspadura adjust based on the level of sweetness you prefer
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda


  • Combine all the ingredients in large pot over medium low heat, stir until the sugar or panela is well dissolved. Reduce the heat to low.
  • Continue cooking until the mixture is significantly reduced and starts to thicken while the color changes from a creamy beige to a caramel tone – it will take between 2 ½ hours to 3 hours for the dulce de leche to be done.
  • During the first 1 ½ hours you will need to stir occasionally to prevent it from boiling over and sticking. During the last hour it needs to be stirred more frequently and has to be watched very closely to keep it from burning – you can also decrease the heat to low. Cook it until it has a dark amber or caramel tone and has a creamy consistency. Keep in mind that it will thicken more when it cools down.
  • Can be served warm or cold and must be kept refrigerated.

Dulce de leche can be a dessert by itself, just take a spoonful of it and let it melt slowly in your mouth. It is also great as a topping for ice cream, pancakes, crepes, etc. My kids love to eat it on toast or cookies. Dulce de leche is also a key ingredient for many Latin desserts such as alfajores, empanadas, flan, cakes, and more. These days you can buy good quality dulce de leche at any grocery store.

Making it at home from scratch can be time consuming, but the process is actually easy; it just requires a little bit of patience and a lot of stirring. There are several shortcuts to making homemade dulce de leche, but most involve using condensed milk, so the end flavor isn’t as good as when you make from scratch with fresh milk. I add a teaspoon of vanilla to my preparation, but you can also use cinnamon if you prefer.

Dulce de leche

For those who want an easier method for dulce de leche than making it completely from scratch, you can make it with condensed milk in the oven using a water bath or double broiler method. It still takes a good amount of time to be done, but you don’t have to stir it constantly and it only requires minimal supervision. Keep in mind that the condensed milk is already sweetened and at least for me, I find dulce de leche made with condensed milk a little bit too sweet.

When making it from scratch you can adjust how much sugar you include and you can also use panela or piloncillo instead of sugar. I’m including both the traditional from scratch dulce de leche recipe and the oven variation using condensed milk. Dulce de leche can be served warm or cold; it will thicken when it cools down and become more liquid when re-heated.

Dulce de leche recipe

Manjar or dulce de leche – Oven water bath method

Easy oven recipe for homemade dulce de leche using condensed milk.
4.90 from 96 votes
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Course: Sweets
Cuisine: Argentina, Colombian, Ecuadorian, Latin American, Peruvian, Venezuelan
Keyword: Caramel, Condensed milk, Dulce de leche
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Servings: 2 cups of dulce de leche


  • 2 14 ounce cans of condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Pre-heat the oven to 425F.
  • Pour the condensed milk into a square baking pan or pie dish; you can add a teaspoon of vanilla or cinnamon if you like. Cover with foil.
  • Place the square pan in a larger pan and pour hot water into the large pan, the water level should be between ½ – ¾ of the square pan with the condensed milk.
  • Bake for about 3 hours to 3 ½ hours. If the water level gets low add more water as needed. During the last hour you can check it every 30 minutes to see if the dulce de leche is ready – it should be a rich amber color. You can also do a taste check to test it.
  • Once the dulce de leche is ready remove it from the oven and let it cool down. Once it’s safe to handle, use a fork or whisk to mix it well. It can be eaten warm or cold. Keep refrigerated.
Dulce de leche recipe

Step by step preparation photos for dulce de leche on the stovetop

Combine milk and sugar for homemade dulce de leche
The milk will start to reduce after about 2 hours of cooking
Stir frequently to prevent it from burning
Cook until the dulce de leche is creamy and has a dark caramel color
Traditional dulce de leche recipe
Easy recipe for dulce de leche

Step by step preparation photos for dulce de leche in the oven

Oven dulce de lech - Combine the condensed milk and vanilla in square oven pan
Cover with foil and bake in an oven bath at 425F
Bake for 3 to 3 .5 hours or until it has a caramel color
Oven method - Let the dulce de leche cool down and then whisk until smooth
Dulce de leche made in the oven
Recipe for homemade dulce de leche
Dulce de leche recipe
Dulce de leche


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  1. Hi Laylita (and anyone who can help), I made dulce de leche last night and unfortunately it wasn’t a success. I used a different recipe, and am looking for a different recipe to try again (hopefully with more success). The recipe I made called for 1 quart whole milk, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp vanilla. The final product was grainy and not that thick smooth stuff you get from the can that’s so good. Before I try this recipe, is there anything you suggest in order to avoid the same results? Thank you!!

  2. Thank you!! I made this over the weekend and it was OUTSTANDING!!!!
    I have bought it in the past, and never will again! the taste if out of this world! Totally worth the time to make it. This will be made often in my house! Best way to serve it is with a spoon :)

    I have boiled it in the past, didn’t like that, it made me nervous, and it just didn’t taste rite. I did the oven method, didn’t like that either. I wanted that true caramel taste.

    Thank you so much!!!!

  3. I am going to try making the fresh milk version it in my ceramic bean pot on a low heat in the oven. I think it will take all day but oh well : )

  4. There’s actually an easier way to make it – just boil a can of condensed milk in water for about three hours (at least two, but three if you want it darker). And you have to make sure the can is fully submerged in the water at all times! I had an episode where I fell asleep and was awakened by an exploded can and droplets of brown caramel all over my kitchen. Yikes.. :)

    1. Yes, you’re right in that this is the easiest way to make it, but it just doesn’t taste the same. I’ve tried them both ways, and the flavor of the one you make on the stove top is way superior to the one where you just stick the can in the oven.

  5. I’m actually planning on making this for a Spanish project and was wondering which recipe would be easier to follow for a novice baker?

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